Week 16 in the NFL created a little more separation. In the AFC, only the Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot as West champions, but five more teams are in good position behind them. The NFC has had five teams already punch tickets, with three division champions crowed and only the bottom two wild-card spots available.
From Thursday night through Sunday night, the action in both conferences was intriguing, if not thrilling in some cases. In others, there were absolutely lopsided results, either expected or not.
Here’s how all 32 teams in the league stack up against each other going into the new year and penultimate week of the 2021 regular season:
NFL power rankings
1. Green Bay Packers 12-3 (previous ranking: 1)
The Packers needed to grind a little to hold off the desperate Browns, but they still won with strong offense and defense overall to continue their march to the NFL’s top record and NFC’s top seed. Aaron Rodgers is making a late run for MVP (again) to push them toward Super Bowl favorite status.
2. Kansas City Chiefs 11-4 (2)
Speaking of late runs toward MVP, Patrick Mahomes has played like one again the past two weeks. The defense hit a snag against the Chargers, but it rebounded big-time to slam down the Steelers in Week 16. The Chiefs look like a complete
3. Dallas Cowboys 11-4 (4)
The Cowboys smashed Washington on Sunday night to send a message to the rest of the NFC they can hang with the Packers, Buccaneers and Rams come playoff time. The defense was a given, but getting Dak Prescott well was awesome to see.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-4 (3)
The Buccaneers reinvented themselves a little for Tom Brady given the sudden depletion in the passing game, running better even without Leonard Fournette. A sneaky storyline is how their defense is looking like Super Bowl 55 form, even with not everyone healthy yet.
5. Los Angeles Rams 11-4 (6)
The Rams got sloppy with Matthew Stafford and the passing game, but a key development was continuing to run the ball well with Sony Michel and playing strong defense against a good offense in Minnesota.
6. Tennessee Titans 10-5 (8)
The Titans needed that big win over the 49ers after the stumble against the Steelers. They’re back on track as the AFC South power and they are hoping to buy time to get Derrick Henry back to have the same returning impact as A.J. Brown.
7. Arizona Cardinals 10-5 (5)
The Cardinals are fading as true NFC title contenders but just the first playoff berth with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray is a welcome breakthrough given the disappointing end to 2020. They are probably right where they should be offensively and defensively.
8. Indianapolis Colts 9-6 (9)
The Colts keep it getting it done simply for Frank Reich, running plenty of Jonathan Taylor and playing solid defense behind it. Carson Wentz gives them a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.
9. Buffalo Bills 9-6 (11)
The Bills are in control of the AFC East again as Josh Allen has taken matters into his own hands and legs as a real elite QB should. The defense is also bouncing back after the recent hiccups.
10. Cincinnati Bengals 9-6 (13)
The Bengals have the real Joe Burrow back to lead their offense. The defense feeds off that energy as well. They are back on track to win the AFC North after a midseason slide.
11. New England Patriots 9-6 (7)
The Patriots have a rare losing streak with Bill Belichick and all the good vibes they had with Mac Jones and the defense has faded a bit. But they still should be thrilled to be ticketed to a wild-card spot.
12. Los Angeles Chargers 8-7 (10)
What was that? The Chargers went from taking the Chiefs into overtime to not even staying with the Texans in regulation. The offense did its best with the running game but the defense shouldn’t be that bad without Joey Bosa.
13. San Francisco 49ers 8-7 (12)
The 49ers grinded as well as they could in a tough tangle with the Titans, but they made too many mistakes (see Jimmy Garoppolo). They need to get well fast against the suddenly spoiling Texans.
14. Baltimore Ravens 8-7 (14)
The Ravens are running out of gas with all their injuries and COVID-19 developments. They can still save their fading playoff hopes but it’s extremely hard to do with the Rams next and Steelers last now that the miracle comebacks have quieted.
15. Philadelphia Eagles 8-7 (19)
The Eagles control their playoff fate now as they’ve figured things out with Nick Sirianni in terms of getting the best out of Jalen Hurts. The defense has been the backbone all season.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-7-1 (15)
The Steelers’ offensive ineptitude with Ben Roethlisberger cost them against vs. the Chiefs, but it’s their defensive meltdown that’s been the most shocking.
17. Miami Dolphins 7-7 (20)
The Dolphins will be trying to make it seven consecutive wins on Monday night and also get back into playoff contention, where they were a season ago before falling short under Brian Flores’ fine coaching.
18. New Orleans Saints 7-7 (17)
The Saints need to march into Monday night’s massive Miami matchup with a COVID-depleted depth chart. Rookie QB Ian Book will either be a spark to their playoffs hopes or an all-out drag.
19. Las Vegas Raiders 8-7 (21)
The Raiders are not getting any style points for how they’ve won of late to keep from completely fading. Derek Carr is still grinding and the team is doing its best far removed from Jon Gruden. They still feel like a playoff afterthought again vs. real wild-card contention.
20. Cleveland Browns 7-8 (16)
The Browns didn’t beat the Packers, but looked more like a potential playoff team in pushing the NFC’s best team to the limit. They need Baker Mayfield to stay hot passing but clean up a few things to better support the running game. Perhaps that’s the kind of loss that can spark them for one true last gasp.
21. Minnesota Vikings 7-8 (18)
The Vikings should be a lot better than their record but their close-game failures have given way to wearing down against top opponents, The Rams knocked out their defense with both run and pass and the Packers can do the same to finish them off in Week 17.
22. Atlanta Falcons 7-8 (24)
The Falcons have a chance to finish near .500 in a good transitional season with Arthur Smith. They have found a little more diversity offensively even without Calvin Ridley and the defense has found a few more answers, too. Those are good signs for a more competitive 2022.
23. Denver Broncos 7-8 (22)
The Broncos aren’t winning enough for Vic Fangio to remain their coach in 2022. They have done some solid things defensively under him all season but the offensive potential needs to be untapped with a better coaching and QB situation.
24. Washington Football Team 6-9 (23)
Washington’s defense has been a big mess all season and although it fixed some things, the scheme and injuries caught up to them. The clock is ticking on a big quarterback change in 2022.
25. Chicago Bears 5-10 (27)
The Bears got a spark with Nick Foles giving his long-time offensive coach Matt Nagy the stocking stuffer of an inspired upset at Seattle. They have some good offensive pieces to rev up when healthy with a new coach.
26. Seattle Seahawks 5-10 (25)
The Seahawks won’t be having a winning record or a playoff trip with Russell Wilson during the first regular season in which he missed games. He has returned to spark their offense and the running of Rashaad Penny has been inspiring, but it’s not enough given the defense’s lingering issues.
27. Carolina Panthers 5-10 (26)
The Panthers were booed off the field with coach Matt Rhule seeing his seat get a lot hotter, which might have not seemed possible after the recent previous results. But the Buccaneers brought out even more dysfunction on both sides of the ball.
28. Houston Texans 4-11 (29)
The Texans saw more of a game Davis Mills and they also played inspired defense and their best overall offense of the season against the Chargers. Houston has shown fight with David Culley as much as possible with limited talent and experience.
29. New York Jets 4-11 (30)
The Jets saw the Zach Wilson they wanted against the Jaguars, freewheeling and using his arm and athleticism to make big runs and spread the ball around well. There’s something there on which to build when all the support is restored at a high level.
30. New York Giants 4-11 (28)
The Giants have become an injury-riddled mess and although they have had some big moments on defense, their offense going into the complete tank with a lot of injuries and no Daniel Jones has dragged the whole team down.
31. Detroit Lions 2-12-1 (31)
The Lions got their wins out of the way and went back to more disappointment on the road minus Jared Goff against a “good bad team” in Atlanta. Dan Campbell has maxed out for Year One.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-13 (32)
The Jaguars couldn’t figure out the Jets in a wild game and Trevor Lawrence was outplayed by Wilson in terms of needing to make enough plays to win a high-scoring affair. They can’t get a new competent head coach fast enough.
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